DSLR technology continues to advance, and a number of outstanding cameras are available at lower prices than ever before. For under $1,000, you can get a quality DSLR from major brands like Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax. Features like built-in Wi-Fi are increasingly popular, as are improved video performance and flip-out screens to make it easier to shoot on the go. Below are our picks for the best DSLRs under $1,000 along with a detailed description of each. The pricier cameras toward the top of this list push $1,000 for the camera body, but we’ve included some cheaper options toward the middle and bottom of the list that will allow you to add a lens or two while staying under budget. For more information, see our DSLR comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
How to pick your perfect digital SLR
There’s nothing much wrong with entry-level SLRs, but these are the various reasons why you might want to up your budget and splash out on one of the pricier models here.
Doesn’t spending more deliver better-quality photos?
Not necessarily. There’s not much to separate a £400 from a £1,000 SLR for image quality. The big jump comes when you move from cropped-sensor to full-frame SLRs.
These terms describe the size of the sensor that captures the image. A cropped SLR sensor measures around 24x15mm, which is equivalent to 23 smartphone camera sensors arranged in a grid. In a nutshell, that’s why their image quality is so much better. Full frame sensors are around 36x24mm, which is 58 times bigger than a smartphone’s sensor. These cameras cost from around £1,300.
The choice of lens can make more of a difference than choosing between a cropped and full-frame sensor. Even if you can afford to go full-frame, you will often get better results by going for a cropped-sensor camera and having more to spend on lenses.
So why else should I spend more money?
There are other reasons why cropped-sensor SLRs range from £400 to £1,500, and full-frame SLRs vary from £1,300 to £5,000.
Pricier models have bigger viewfinders, which greatly enhances the overall experience of using the camera. Lots of buttons and dials make it quicker to adjust settings without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Pricier cameras tend to be physically bigger, which might not sound like an advantage but it means they’re more comfortable to hold and have room for longer-lasting batteries. Paying more also gives you faster performance and more sophisticated autofocus and video, which we’ll come onto below.
What cameras are best for landscape photography?
Landscape photography is relatively undemanding for the camera. A high megapixel rating is useful for big prints but a high quality lens is probably more important. 24 megapixels is more than enough for sharp A3 prints.
What cameras are best for portraits?
A blurred background can really flatter portrait shots. Full frame helps to achieve this, but a wide-aperture lens is a cheaper route to the same result. Go for both for the strongest effect. Having a camera with lots of autofocus points makes it easier to focus precisely on the subject’s eyes.
What cameras are best for sports and wildlife?
Fast-moving subjects really put an SLR through its paces. A fast burst speed and large buffer let you capture lots of shots, and sophisticated autofocus with subject tracking keeps moving subjects in focus. You’ll also need a telephoto lens — these start from around £250, but expect to pay at least £1,000 for one that matches the quality of a full-frame SLR.
What do I need if I want to shoot video?
All modern SLRs shoot video but some do a much better job than others. 1080p resolution is standard but some support 4K recording — a feature that’s well worth having. Autofocus performance varies widely: at best it’s smooth and responsive, at worst, like a bull in a china shop. An articulated touchscreen is extremely useful for video, letting you position the camera freely and move the autofocus point while recording.